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Everything You Need to Know About TMJ

Posted in Chronic Pain, TMJ on Jan 24, 2020

What is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?

TMJ is an acronym for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. The TMJ is a bilateral hinge joint that connects the jaw to the skull. TMJ syndrome is a condition where the jaw - skull joint no longer fits as it was designed.  TMJ most commonly results from imbalances in the muscles of mastication. In this article, we discuss a host of facts that surround TMJ syndrome and towards the end of the article we will offer up a natural form of health care, Blair Upper Cervical Care, that has helped thousands of TMJ sufferers recover their lost health.

TMJ Symptoms

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  • TMJ symptoms can be numerous, however, the most common symptoms resulting from TMJ syndrome are:
  • Pain areas: in the face, ear, jaw, or mouth
  • Pain types: can be chronic
  • Mouth: difficulty chewing or toothache
  • TMJ Joints: crackles or tenderness
  • Also common: headache, joint locking, or muscle spasms, loss of range of motion- can't open mouth as wide as before.

TMJ symptoms in women and TMJ symptoms in men

  • pain in the jaw muscles.
  • pain in the neck and shoulders.
  • chronic headaches.
  • jaw muscle stiffness.
  • limited movement or locking of the jaw.
  • ear pain, pressure.
  • painful clicking, popping or grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth.
  • a bite that feels “off

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Temporomandibular Joint Disorder Trigger Points

Trigger points are hyper-tensed muscles (aka muscle knots) that cause jaw aches and pains. When it comes to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder the most common trigger point occurs in the masseter muscle. The masseter muscle is used for chewing and jaw clenching. Imbalances in TMJ muscle tone, lead to biomechanics changes in the TM joint and can lead to trigger points in the masseter muscle. Muscle overuse from teeth grinding and jaw clenching can also cause the muscles to become tense, inflamed and very painful. 

TMJ Pain

Pain and compromised movement of the jaw joint and the surrounding muscles is at the root of TMJ pain. The temporomandibular joint or TMJ acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull. Dysfunction can lead to pain and discomfort. Most commonly the pain radiates around the jaw and occasionally to the ear. Also involved in TMJ is the temporalis muscle. This fan-like muscle located in the side of the skull inserts into the top of the jawbone at the Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. It is commonly thought and can cause pain on the side of the head.



What Can be TMJ Causes?

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There can be many factors that lead to the development of TMJ syndrome. However, the single biggest contributor to TMJ syndrome is an imbalance of the muscles that perform mastication: the masseter, internal pterygoid muscle, and the temporalis muscles are all responsible for mastication. What is the major cause that contributes to mastication muscle imbalance? 

The answer is irritation and interference to brain-stem function resulting from trauma to the upper cervical spine. The trigeminal nucleus sits inside of the brain-stem and one of its branches, the mandibular branch, is responsible for controlling the muscles of mastication. When upper cervical spine injury occurs, it can result in brain-stem deformation and affect the function of the trigeminal nucleus resulting in mastication muscle imbalance and underly TMJ syndrome.

There are other causative agents in the development of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder syndrome below which we will briefly discuss.

Infections:

Even though uncommon, infections of the teeth can lead to encroachment and infection of the  TMJ resulting in muscle tone imbalances, joint degeneration and TMJ symptoms.

Genes: Some people do have genetically abnormal TMJ development and jaw abnormalities which can lead to TMJ problems. This is due to the structure being off-center, or the TMJ not fitting properly which can lead to TMJ syndrome.

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Trauma:

We discussed trauma to the neck is the most common cause of TMJ. Direct trauma to the TMJ joint can damage the disc and joints leading to inflammation and the TMJ joint not fitting properly. Many patients that have had direct trauma to the TMJ attribute it to the underlying cause of their symptoms and health problems.

Stress:

Everyone knows that stress is not your friend. For anyone who has been under an extreme amount of stress, they become acutely aware that stress results in muscle tightness. When under stress it is estimated that the weight of the head can effectively weigh as much as ninety pounds. When the muscles tighten, they produce compressional stress on the joints of the neck which can lead to jaw clenching, grinding, and muscles of mastication fatigue. Coupled with an underlying neck injury, stress can fast track, someone, into developing TMJ syndrome.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder and Autoimmunity

There are several research articles in the PubMed database that suggest a correlation between autoimmunity and Temporomandibular Joint Disorder syndrome. AS is the case with many syndromes, are these separate symptoms one underlying cause and is it the chicken or the egg? Do people develop TMJ because of autoimmune conditions or is TMJ the result of abnormal biomechanics in the neck that also predispose the body to develop autoimmunity and TMJ syndrome? We know that autoimmunity has the hallmark of inflammation. WE also know that inflammatory processes in the body can lead to arthritis and degenerative changes in the joints throughout the body making the TMJ more vulnerable to injury and damage. There is no doubt that autoimmunity can lead to TMJ syndrome but the larger questions is- If you have TMJ syndrome and autoimmunity what can you do about it?

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Factors that may increase the risk of developing TMJ disorders include:

  • Various types of arthritis, such as
  • rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
  • Cervical spine injury
  • Jaw injury
  • Long-term (chronic) grinding or clenching of teeth
  • Certain connective tissue diseases that cause problems that may affect the temporomandibular joint

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder Diagnosis

TMJ disorders can be difficult to diagnose. There are no standard tests to diagnose these disorders. Your doctor may refer you to a dentist or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist to diagnose your condition.

Your doctor may examine your jaw to see if there is swelling or tenderness if you have symptoms of a Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. Your doctor may also use several different imaging tests. These can include:

  • X-rays of the jaw
  • CT scan of the jaw to see the bones and joint tissues
  • MRI of the jaw to see if there are problems with the structure of the jaw

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TMJ Treatment - TMJ Natural Remedies

Tmj Pain Relief

The most prevalent treatment for TMJ disorder is a dental appliance. There are many patients who receive significant relief from dental appliances that reposition the jaw so the TMJ fits properly. 

However, we would like to discuss a little-known procedure called Blair Upper Cervical that often gets to the very ROOT cause of TMJ disorder. We have mentioned briefly that TMJ disorder is most often the result of imbalances in the mastication muscles. Because the neck houses the brain-stem, and the trigeminal nucleus, neck injury and subsequent upper cervical misalignment can disrupt and interfere with normal mastication muscle tone. Upper cervical injury in pour experience in our upper cervical health care office is at the root of a large majority of TMJ cases.

What Exactly Does an Upper Cervical Chiropractor Do?

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Blair Upper Cervical doctors are specially trained to locate spinal misalignments in the upper cervical spine and correct them. Spinal misalignment is located by running a battery of neurological tests that locate the spinal segments that have been injured and misaligned by a prior neck injury.

Once located, precision imaging in the form of digital x-ray or cone-beam computed tomography (Cbct) are used to precisely determine which joint has misaligned and the angulation of the misaligned joint. Each person’s anatomy is different and therefore imaging is used to uncover the blueprint to be used to correct each patient’s individual misalignment pattern. Once this information is gleaned, a gentle, light correction is made without twisting, popping, or pulling.

The patient is then monitored overtime to ensure that the correction is holding. If the testing indicates the need for another correction, then it is performed. However, the goal of Blair Upper Cervical Care is for the patient to stay in “adjustment”. It isn’t the correction that produces healing. It is the removal of nerve irritation and the adjustment “holding” in its normal position that allows the body to function better and proceed through a healing process.



Types of TMJ medication

Pain relief medication

There are two classes of medication that are often prescribed. One is to help with the pain. Anti-inflammatory medication is often given and can be used to reduce inflammation and pain but is hardly a solution. Medication should ONLY be used for temporary relief u til you find the right natural doctor (Blair upper cervical hint..) to correct the underlying cause.

Antidepressants

Unfortunately, some doctors prescribe patients with antidepressants. This is a terrible option that doesn't investigate the cause. While we will not minimize how severe TMJ symptoms can affect a patient throwing antidepressants at patients who suffer from the biomechanical issue is poor health care.

Anti-seizure drugs

Yes, believe it or not at times patients are prescribed anti-seizure medication to treat TMJ disorder. We are NOT FANS.

Living with Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Living with TMJ can be debilitating, lonely, and depressing. Unless someone has lived with chronic jaw pain, headaches, muscle pain, and other symptoms that come with TMJ, THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND.  Also, like many conditions, TMJ is not a condition that can be evident by looking at the individual. Because of the TMJ’s invisibility, many dismiss the agony that one can be in when suffering from TMJ syndrome. The good news is there are many things you can do from a natural perspective that can be highly successful in addressing the cause. If you are suffering in silence and medicating with pain killers do yourself a factor and lookup Blair Upper Cervical Chiropractic - you will be happy you did.

TMJ Facts and Statistics.

“The prevalence of temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMJD) is between 5% and 12%. Unusual for chronic pain conditions, the prevalence rates of TMJ disorders are higher among younger persons. TMJ disorders are at least twice as prevalent in women as men, and women using either supplemental estrogen or oral contraceptives are more likely to seek treatment for these conditions. (1)”

“The most common cause of facial pain is temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMJD), which causes recurrent or chronic pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and its associated muscles and supporting tissues. TMJD is the second most commonly occurring musculoskeletal condition resulting in pain and disability (after chronic low back pain), affecting approximately 5 to 12% of the population, with an annual cost estimated at $4 billion. About half to two-thirds of those with TMJ disorders will seek treatment. Among these, approximately 15% will develop chronic TMJD."

If you or a loved one has come across this article and is interested in Blair Upper Cervical Care as a natural solution to TMHJ syndrome our Los Angeles Based offices offer a FREE consultation.